What is Sustainable Production?

What is a Sustainable Production Anyway?

The motion picture industry goes through great lengths to provide the public with an incredible cinematic experience. The process of making a film or television show also requires an incredible amount of materials and resources.

Everything from the costumes, props, and sets you see on the screen to feeding staff, transportation, lighting, and power has an impact on the environment. The motion picture industry is historically notorious for its use of resources and adding tonnes of waste to local landfills annually. This not done with the intent on harming the environment but is an unfortunate bi-product of the creative process to produce entertainment for audiences around the globe.  

A production refers to the organization and operations that exist to produce a film or tv show.

Here’s where sustainability comes in.

Recently as the we become more aware of human impact on the environment, industries are beginning to look at their processes to strategize on how to reduce their impact on the environment. This includes the motion picture and entertainment industry.  

Carbon Footprint is the sum of all emissions of CO2 (carbon dioxide), which were induced by your activities in a given time frame

Sustainable production means a production that implements identified best practices within their creative process to reduce their overall carbon footprint. This can also be referred to as “greening a production”. Zena Harris, the President of Green Spark Group identifies sustainable production as “incorporating practices into the production process that reduce negative environmental impacts, engage positively with the community, and align with the overall production budget.”

Sustainability is a concept that takes into account social, environmental and economic responsibility. It's the ability of an organization to manage transparently its responsibilities for social well-being, environmental stewardship, and economic prosperity over the long term.  

Okay, so now that we have an idea on what sustainable production means how can a film or tv show become a sustainable production?

There are a few ways to achieve this! Many resources that are available (and sometimes free!) exist out there such as the Green Production Guide . These resources tackle sustainability by providing education to crews, directors, and producers and delivering tool kits on types of practices to implement while creating a film or tv show. These tool kits generally include a tracking system such as a carbon calculator.


You can also hire sustainable production professionals who are committed to reducing the motion picture industry’s carbon footprint such as the sustainable consultants at Green Spark Group. These professionals provide insight and expertise on what actions a production can take to best reduce its impact on the environment. They also come with a network of industry partners who are engaged in achieving sustainable production practices via food donation, material reuse, waste sorting and recycling and more.

In conclusion there is no one metric that defines a sustainable production. There are organizations out there such as the Environmental Media Association and NYC Film Green who third party entities that attribute scores and points based on best practices achieved by a production. When productions achieve a certain benchmark, they are eligible for recognition by these organizations.

Best practices are steps a production can take that have been identified as reducing environmental impact and carbon foot print.

But being sustainable can mean anything a production can do to reduce its waste, use of resources, and impact. In time, Green Spark Group envisions seeing sustainable production becoming the new norm for how we produce movies and tv for audiences around the world.


Green Spark Group at VIFF

Panelists from the motion picture industry came together from all around the world on October 4th 2017  to discuss sustainability at for the Vancouver International Film Festival’s second annual Sustainable Production Forum.

Topics included Policy, Collaboration, Power, Next Generation, and round tables with major film studios and filmmakers. Representatives from Fox and Warner Brothers provided insight on tools their studio productions utilize to achieve sustainability while on set and other panelists spoke to other tools being utilized around the world such as Eco Prod.

Some key themes that were underlined throughout the day were the importance of alignment and effective collaboration on a global scale to achieve sustainability throughout the entire motion picture industry. Communication is paramount in achieving this goal with several groups already working in consortiums, however, it was identified that more outreach to stakeholders like Universities and schools is an area for improvement.

The forum also highlighted the launch of Creative BC’s Reel Green Program and Strategic Plan for sustainability within the BC film industry. The Reel Green program is “prioritizing education, engagement, communications and resources as [they] develop a platform for the reduction of environmental impacts and stakeholder engagement at the local level to set an example for other jurisdictions globally.” This is a huge leap for sustainable production in Canada and BC is excited to be leading the way.

Jeremy Mathieu, Albert International Manager for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts took the stage at multiple panels to discuss their Albert tool and its place in creating industry wide alignment for sustainable production. Creative BC’s Reel Green Program will be adapting the Albert tool for productions in British Columbia as part of their Strategic Plan.

Overall, the forum was a huge success with passionate conversations and dialogue about how to green the industry and the way forward for everyone. We look forward to next year and to build upon these conversations that improve sustainable production practices globally.


Photo Credits: Vancouver International Film Festival 

New: Set Material Reuse in Metro Vancouver!

Green Spark Group and Keep it Green Recycling are partnering to provide a service to store and donate set materials to future productions, charities and film schools for reuse.

How it Works:

1)  Drop off your reuseable set materials to Sustainable Lockup

2)  Sustainable Lockup will find homes for others to reuse your materials

3)  Source your materials from the Sustainable Lockup!

It's that simple!  

Help green your production and keep your reusable set materials out of the landfill.  

To find out Drop-off prices and/or to schedule a drop-off, email contactus@keepitgreenrecycling.ca.  Visit sustainablelockup.com and sign up for our mailing list!

Happy Earth Day!

Today is a reminder of what we're working toward every day.  We've made amazing progress on productions and studio lots around the world.  Let's keep it up!  

"We make a product the world can very well do without, a luxury good. And in manufacturing a luxury, we must hold ourselves to a higher standard, not only must we make a great product, but we must do as little harm as possible.”  Chris Carter, Director, Producer, Writer and Creator of The X-Files at the 2016 VIFF Sustainable Production Forum. 

Fox Continues Sustainable Production with Legion!

source: 21.cf/Legion

source: 21.cf/Legion

Sustainable production is on the rise and here is another example from Fox!  We were thrilled to work with Fox again, and this time on Legion, filmed in British Columbia.

Take a look at the case study and exclusive behind-the-scenes video of how Legion incorporated sustainable production practices!

"Legion is the latest in a long tradition of green production at 21CF. The company has worked with production crews across its film and television projects to implement environmental best practices, and previous series such as 24: Live Another Day and The X-Files event series each broke new ground for the industry on waste and recycling. For Legion, Fox once again hired Zena Harris of Green Spark Group, who led similar efforts on The X-Files, to serve as sustainable production coordinator. Harris collaborated with each department, from props to wardrobe to transportation, to set goals around reducing waste, recycling and reusing set materials, and carefully monitoring energy consumption. By both building on the success of previous series and identifying new opportunities for innovation, the crew managed to divert 55% of the waste from landfill, avoid 252 metric tons of CO2 emissions, and collectively save nearly $48,000 USD."



Our 2016 Sustainable Production Journey

As we wind down 2016 we reflect on the sustainable production journey. Here are a few milestones from this past year:

  • Working closely with Kelsey Evans of Keep it Green Recycling – we partnered on a #GreenFilmTip project to make sustainable production tips accessible to our industry, and have collaborated on projects throughout the year.
  • Partnering with EcoSet to make the Vancouver-based Campbell’s commercial zero waste – all in all we diverted 96% of waste from landfill!

  • Diverting materials on feature films for reuse by local non-profits

  • Engaging with Creative BC on strategic planning to reinvigorate Reel Green  

  • Working with the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) to produce the Sustainable Production Forum, a first-of-its-kind in North America! (highlight reel)

  • Collaborating with the Vancouver Economic Commission on a session at the Sustainable Production Forum – Myth busting! A hit session that debunked myths about sustainable production and brought together the local green economy with the creative economy

  • Consulting on a TV series to integrate sustainable production practices in all departments

  • Engaging with motion picture industry organizations and broader stakeholders to advance sustainable production industry-wide.

As we look to 2017, a few areas we are eager to make more of a difference in are carbon emission reduction, food donations, training and education and stakeholder collaboration.


Here’s to a green 2017!